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Monday, 11 August 2014

Piper Malibu delivery tour: Leg #1 KVRB - MYGF

I love aviation and even though I am not a pilot I like to practice navigation and for that reason I have been acquiring some nice IFR rated aircraft for my Flight Simulator X. Last December (2013) I bought the Carenado Piper Malibu Jetprop (PA-46T). As a flight simulation enthusiast I am nowadays “grounded” with home airport Marcos A. Gelabert (MPMG) and thought it would be nice to replicate a real life aircraft delivery.

So in this installment we will do the the very first leg of a delivery tour for our brand new Piper Malibu Jetprop in Lord of Wings livery. We will take it from the Piper factory at Vero Beach Municipal Airport down to Panama city, Panama in only God knows how many legs. The purpose is to have fun as well, visit new airports, practice lots of IFR and get to know the aircraft.

Briefing & Planning

I like to do my flight planning so I used Plan-G to plan my flight. Loaded with the PA-46T aircraft profile.

We will fly from Vero Beach municipal airport (ICAO: KVRB) to Freeport, Bahamas. Our cruise altitude will be 9,000 feet (IFR, east bound). For Vero Beach I only found the Aerodrome chart, no departure charts. For Freeport I got Instrument Approach charts.

Setup FSX for real time weather with 15 minute updates which turned out to be just rainy. We will do VOR to VOR navigation including an intersection. The route declared in the IVAO flight plan is:

v3 WUBUR v3 SMUGS v3 MORGA v3 PBI br54v MRLIN br64v MUNRO

Loaded 137 gallons of fuel and we expect to use 27 gals. Payload is 360 pounds. Our trip will be 144 nautical miles with ETE 01:12. Alterante airports MYAT and MYGM.


At the ramp (#8) inspecting Aerodrome chart
Our brand new Malibu is at Parking #8, will taxi via taxiway A to the holding point of Runway 04. The METAR at Vero Beach (KVRB) is:

KVRB 091753Z 06008KT 10SM TS SCT035 BKN045 BKN065 29/24 A3007

So basically winds 060 degrees at 8 knots so we get runway 04. Scattered clouds but good visibility. Set the altimeter, flaps 10 degrees. On our Garmin GNS530 we set our NAV1 (VRB 117.30 – Vero Beach) On the Garmin 500 Primary Flight Display I set the heading but to 198 more or less pointing to WUBUR intersection, our first waypoint, the Course Indicator to track VRB R-164 outbound, Altitude to our initial climb of 5,000 feet. On the Garmin GNS430 we set NAV2 to Palm Beach (PBI 115.7), Flight Director on, connection to IVAO but unfortunately no ATC coverage on the network.

Vero Beach Municipal Airport (KVRB)
An uneventful take off with slight rain, turned left on initial climb to 5,000 feet with Vero Beach municipal airport on our left. Getting the hang on the Carenado PA46T which may be wild at takeoff/climb if you give it too much power.

We will be heading to WUBUR intersection which is our first waypoint in the flight plan and initiates our navigation along the V3 airway outbound from VRB to PBI via SMUGS and MORGA intersections straight ahead with the coast of Florida on our left.

Once I was more or less at WUBUR I engaged the Autopilot to hold climb from our initial 5,000 to our cruise altitude of 9,000 feet so we are climbing with Fort Pierce on our left.

Fort Pierce airport on our left
While I do other preparations for the flight I also set the AVSS to hold the course tracking VRB-PBI along V3.

If you want to do real navigation with the Carenado Malibu you have to be a bit ingenious as the virtual cockpit is not very readable, so I docked the PFD and the GNS530 on a 2nd monitor but soon you find out that while you can operate the buttons on the docked panel, operating the rotating knob to adjust HDG/ALT/CRS will result in nothing being updated. I think this is a serious bug in the Carenado Malibu but experience has shown that while they release planes often, they seldom iron out most of the bugs reported by users in the "Unofficial" Carenado forum. There is no "Official" Carenado forum which is very strange way of supporting customers.


West Palm Beach behind us, over the sea
Okay we are now cruising at 9,000 feet, I don’t want to fly too low over water as I can’t swim. After passing West Palm Beach VOR (PBI) we turned left outbound R-125 on airway BR54V towards MRLIN intersection.

The navigational challenge for this flight is this intersection. For that we have changed our navigational setup with PBI set on NAV2 (GNS430) with OBS 125 and our destination Freeport VOR/DME  (ZFP 113.2 – Freeport) on NAV1 (GNS530) with OBS 090 (radial 090 inbound ZFP). So, we should be at MRLIN when the CDI aligns on the PFD (NAV1) as well on the VOR2 (NAV2) which is kind of hidden behind the virtual joke. Kind of a Carenado nuisance but doable. MRLIN is 20nm outbound PBI and 57.3nm from ZFP.

MRLIN intersection
The picture on the right shows when we are a couple of nautical miles near MRLIN, as you can see I had to move the yoke out of the way (for that I had to put the AVSS on either heading hold or course hold). The VOR2 shows we are nearly aligned (nearing intersection), the indicator on the PFD unfortunately was set to GPS (magenta) instead of VOR, and therefore it is not showing the alignment I wanted to show at the time I took the screenshot.

As a preparation for the next phase of flight I have also tuned the ADF to the Freeport NDB (ZFP 209.00 KHz). NAV1 is as mentioned, set for the Freeport VOR/DME as active frequency (for tracking MRLIN as well) and on NAV1 standby I have already put the Freeport Localizer (IZFP 109.70).

12nm arc to intercept ILS at Freeport
Past MRLIN intersection we turn left heading 087 degrees for a 40nm leg to MUNRO intersection on the BR64V airway. Planning to pass MUNRO at 5,000 feet.

At MUNRO continued R-090 inbound Freeport. 12nm from Freeport we turned right for the 12nm arc towards HOLIR interception where we should be at 2,000 feet as we intercept the Freeport ILS to runway 06.

That got a bit tricky because I did not go through the VRB VOR/DME on departure so the GPS kind of skipped it and lost tracking. I tried to change the active leg on the GPS with no success. I don’t know if that is a Carenado bug or what.

Approach & Arrival

ILS 06 Interception analysis
As we finish our 12nm DME arc we find ourselves at the 064 radial of the ILS 06 at Freeport, Grand Bahamas (MYGF).

Please do remember, the charts I got as well as the descriptions are for simulation purposes only and therefore not current!.

I could not find any decent scenery for FSX for Freeport. This was my 2nd time on this “virtual” airport. My first time was years ago with a virtual flight from Miami (KMIA) with thunderstorm and doing my first flight simulation video.

Landing was kind of okay but not perfect. I used REX Latitude to grade the flight but forgot to add the correct aircraft profile so even though my landing speed was right on the spot, it said it was too slow.

Approached at a descent rate of –504 feet/minute and landed at –165 feet/minute at 85 knots.
Used up 26 gallons of fuel as expected and completed the flight on time as well, great!

The next leg (#2) of the delivery tour will be from Freeport to Nassau, just slightly shorter hopefully with more challenging weather. Leg #3 will take us to Cuba.

You can find the video of this first leg on You Tube. Make sure to share it or like it :-)

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Caribbean Adventure – Caracas to St. Maarten

Having completed the Panama Air Rally 2013 which was mostly a GA adventure ending with a jet on the only ILS approach possible on that tour, I am now setting into a new adventure.

The purpose of the Caribbean adventure is to utilize several aircrafts, among which the Boeing 737-800 (stock), the BAe Jetstream 41 (PMDG), the Piper Seneca II (Carenado), the Twin Otter 300 (Aerosoft) and perhaps the stock Beechcraft King Air 350 and Cessna Cargo Master C250B.

The adventure which is still being planned would start with the Boeing on the route Caracas to Trinidad & Tobago, two major airports with ILS.

The tour would be island hoping in the hopes of encountering interesting FSX destinations traveling above the water expanse and approaching into islands. Obviously most of it would be Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) at either dusk or dawn with hopefully challenging weather conditions, either real time or induced should the real time weather be too boring. And who knows, should the IVAO ATC be online even better!

So, if you would also like to embark into this adventure let me know by sending me a Tweet at @aviationweb . Now, if you fly VATSIM feel free to fly the tour as well though we wouldn’t be able to see each other online.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Jetstream Chronicles: Bahia Solano to Tocumen

As you can see from my virtual hangar, I have a British Aerospace Jetstream 41 (ICAO: JS41) turboprop made by PMDG.It cost me dearly but have mostly stayed in the hangar except for some test flights. I read the Pilot Tutorial (93 pages) and the other docs, countless Tips & FAQS but attempts to use it nearly always terminated in one or two engine fires right at the apron. Mostly after I pressed the engine start buttons and if not right at the moment I tried to begin taxi. Quite frustrating if you spend nearly an hour going through checklists in a virtual cockpit (not as comfortable as a real cockpit). But despite the fact that PMDG wasn’t interested in producing a service pack to solve the cockpit state issues, it remains an add-on of very good craftmanship (except for the woes). So, rather than wasting my time running the checklists to end in engine fire I have opted to use this a/c with engines started and program the FMC and set the instruments.

So, today we will fly from Bahía Solano to Panama. I tried this many months ago with the JS41, the first time the engines melted down at the apron. The second time I was 80% into the flight and started descent and had troubles descending and slowing down (something you can’t do at the same time in this a/c) so it overstressed and it was game over, for that see my post “Virtual Incidents & Accidents: Jetstream 4100”. The Jetstream stayed in the hangar since then in 2010… Until now!

JS41-SKBS-MPTO-FlightPlanHere is our flight plan made with the excellent Plan-G planner. It will be an IFR flight in the Jetstream 4100 from Bahía Solano to Tocumen Intl. airport in Panama. Initial altitude will be 6,000 feet, then when approaching the border with Panama we would temporarily climb to 7,000 feet. Flight Plan is as follows:


Departure – Bahía Solano

We will be departing (engines started) from Parking #2 of the José Celestino Mutis (ICAO: SKBS, IATA: BSC) regional airport at Bahía Solano in the province of Chocó, Colombia. [runway picture. Twin Otter real life landing at BSC). The stock FSX airport is just crappy so based on aereal recoinassance I made a quick & dirty reproduction. The airport is at 81 feet but in FSX with the mesh it appeared at over 400 feet. The best I could do was move it slightly and accommodate it at 4 feet. However just like the real airport, it is surrounded by a lot of vegetation and hills.

The FMC has been programmed already, Tuned both NAV1 and NAV2 active frequencies to the Ambalema VOR/DME (ABL: 112.70) with OBS 317. It is way back near Bogota with a range of 200nm so I used it to get the initial intercept towards DAKMO but the signal will vanish prior to getting there. The heading bug is set to 343. NAV1 standby frequency set to La Palma VOR (PML 113.10) and the ADF tuned to the Bahia Solano NDB(BHS 244.0 kHz).

JS41-SKBS-MPTO-2013-aug-27-001So, at about 05:45 AM (UTC-5) after configuring the PMDG Jetstream for take off configuration. V1 and Vr are 103 knots, V2 110 knots, Flaps 9, set torque to 100%, turned off taxi lights, all others on, Ground Spoilers armed.

Slowly pushed the Condition lever out of Taxi to 100% (flight), let it stabilize a bit and then slowly pushed the throttles forward let it build up a bit, brakes relased, the aircraft started to move slowly and you wonder whether you are going to clear the end of the runway. It continues, 70 knots JS41-SKBS-MPTO-2013-aug-27-003callout, speed picks up and I am near the last quarter of the runway (35), V1 and Vrotate callouts.

I gently pulled the yoke maintaining the a/c on a steady climb following runway heading. Cleared the tree and small hill at the end of the runway. Positive rate of climb callout, gear up… 700 feet AGL retracted flaps to clean configuration. We have the 1965 ft. Cerro Mutis on our left.

JS41-SKBS-MPTO-2013-aug-27-006The a/c flew above the town of Bahia Solano and into the bay of the same name and Point St. Francisco Solano to our left. Past the Bay of Nabugá and Gulf of Cupica on our right as we head inland to intercept the ABL radial. Then at 200nm outbound ABL the signal goes out as expected.

By now I am at our initial cruise altitude of 6,000 feet continuing heading 347 towards DAKMO. DAKMO intersection is right on the border of the Colombian and Panamanian airspace over the mountains of Darien province, as we neared I climbed further up to 7,000 feet.

JS41-SKBS-MPTO-2013-aug-27-005Jetstream 4100 at 7,000 feet over the mountains of Darien. Passed DAKMO intersection but continuing on the same heading. Now I have the PML VOR on NAV1 & NAV2 with Taboga VOR/DME (TBG 110.00) on standby and the Taboga NDB on the ADF. Unfortunately PML has no DME. I set the OBS1 to PML R-239 to mark our arrival to the ITAGO intersection on this heading (311). Once cleared the mountains I decended to 6,000 feet again.

Passed ITAGO above the Gulf of Panama, the beautiful Pearls Archipel is ahead with the big San Miguel island coming soon in sight. Started planning for the approach which is very tricky with this aircraft. First reduced the speed to around 190 knots, reduced torque to start a descent to 5,000 feet. I reprogrammed the Jetstream’s four speedbugs to 123, 108, 110 and 125 knots respectively for about 20,000 lbs of weight at landing. The last speed being that for Flaps 25.

JS41-SKBS-MPTO-2013-aug-27-009Just prior to reaching ITAGO I had swapped NAV frequencies so that I had TBG on the active and could track the inbound radial (R-311).

A few nautical miles prior to reaching TBG turned right, swapping frequencies yet again so that now I had TBG on NAV1 standby and on NAV2 active and on NAV1 active I had the Tocumen (ICAO: MPTO, IATA: PTY) Runway 03L ILS (INAT 110.70). Here with a beautiful view of Panama city, the Pacific Ocean entrance to the Panama Canal and the equally beautiful Amador Causeway with its three islands (Naos, Perico & Flamenco). My interactive Weight & Balance sheet is now tucked in. Currently at 3,500 feet and intercepting the ILS with OBS set to 030 degrees (pressed V/L on the autopilot and set 030 on the CRS to set intercept heading on the Jetstream). RPM set to 99%, APR armed

JS41-SKBS-MPTO-2013-aug-27-017It was still early morning and as I approached MPTO there was a low cloud cover making it impossible to visualize the airport, anyway there is the HIS where I was already aligned. At this moment I disabled the altitude hold on the autopilot, enabled the Approach mode and I could see how the a/c maintained horizontal alignment. The EHSI showed it was right on the glideslope, descending gently, still no runway in sight, all is white on the windshield.

The time passes, still nothing in sight just whiteness… kept on monitoring the instruments, aligned to ILS, still right on the glideslope. Suddenly just underneath the blanket of mist I could see the treetops of the mangroves near Tocumen. I was coming at 180 knots, couldn’t make the target of 170 knots. I judged better not to use flaps because Flaps 9 would cause this a/c to either balloon or try to stay afloat above the runway.

JS41-SKBS-MPTO-2013-aug-27-010More hidden treetops and then some point slightly above Decision Height and suddenly there it was, God gracious! Runway 03R. Disengaged the autopilot and continued the final approach visually.

Landed on the sweet spot, a little flare and then when fully landed reverse thrust to slow down the beast. Spoilers deployed (automatic), applied brakes. When it slowed down to 70 knots I disengaged reverse thrust to taxi out of the runway.

JS41-SKBS-MPTO-2013-aug-27-011The problem is, apparently with the throttle when you notch it out of reverse (there is a detent) the simulator tends to interpret it as thrust applied and there it goes again. I had to vacate the runway via taxiway F at the end of 03R.

Here a nice misty screenshot from the cockpit as I neared the Tocumen passenger terminal (scenery by Tropical Sim).


And finally I arrived to the gates and went through the shutdown checklist. Didn’t check how much fuel it consumed though… But no aircraft was lost in this operation Smile

The Jetstream 41 from PMDG is a pleasure to fly, it is a bit of a medium maintenance a/c during the whole flight, especially if you get icing conditions or engine overheat which must be monitored closely.

Simulation Events
As I mentioned this PMDG is highly demanding with resources as well. This time I was just crossing ITAGO when I clicked on the instrument panel and the simulation crashed (I get that most often with this PMDG). I had to start all over, but rather than redoing it, I took off from SKBS, took the a/c to cruise altitude then slewed it to the geographical position where the simulation had crashed and continued thereon.

I have a realtively power PC with 4GB so I am considering getting a full 6GB or 8GB (I had 6GB but the memories got damaged due to spikes).

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Panama Air Rally 2013 Final Leg

Unfortunately due to other commitments I can’t do as many virtual flights as I would love to. Therefore it took me eight months to complete the 789 nautical mile round-the-country tour of Panama using Microsoft Flight Simulator X.

The last leg was just like the one before, 69 nm from Rio Hato airport using Lord of Wings Flight Simulation add-on scenery via UKATI intersection to Taboga VOR/DME and finally to Tocumen International Airport.


This was pretty much the only leg where you could use a commercial jetliner.

In this category of aircraft I am afraid I only have stock aircrafts in my hangar. There are many freeware a/c for FSX but they either lack a descent 3D virtual cockpit or have textures and models that are just not fine enough for my taste.

So for this last leg I chose the stock Boeing 737-800 with the KLM livery, one of my favorite airlines. Took off from Rio Hat (ICAO: MPRH) runway 36 with just enough fuel to be lightweight. In this screenshot (sorry, the only one I took) overflying the Chame civil airport by Lord of Wings Flight Simulation which replaces the stock airport which is just a bare runway with nothing familiar around it. This add-on, reproduces some of the surroundings such as fences, a/c parkings, roads as well as the airport runway. Buildings are just stock because the author was not allowed to take pictures of the airport or its buildings by the police (yes, Panama is weird, still some of the dictatorial stuff remains) and therefore unable to design them in 3D.

UKATI is just near Rio Hato which by the end of the year will sport a brand new runway and passenger terminal after way too many years of abandonment. After UKATI I flew to DAMAX intersection on the same airway which is just on the Chame insel just ahead.

From there on to Taboga island making use of the VOR/DME (110.00) of the same name (NDB available as well). Finally just prior to reaching Taboga I swapped the NAV1 frequencies to put TBG on standby (ADF still on TBG) and the INAT (110.70) ILS for runway 03 of Tocumen International (ICAO: MPTO) on the active frequency.

From there on passing at around 3,500 feet and intercepting the ILS both laterally and on the glideslope for an unventful touchdown at Tocumen.

About Lord of Wings Flight Simulation

Lord of Wings Flight Simulation is a developer of a relative large collection of Panamanian regional airports (still in development). You can follow development on:

logo-facebookLord of Wings Flight Simulation ® on Facebook

logo-twitterLord of Wings Flight Simulation ® on Twitter (new)

logo-youtubeLord of Wings Flight Simulation ® You Tube channel

Which is being developed under current sponsoring by Coralys Design & Consultancy under the brandname “Panama Lite X ®”

Friday, 12 July 2013

Panama Air Rally 2013: Colon to Rio Hato

Today we will do the 9th leg of the Virtual Pilot Association’s Panama Air Rally 2013 leg #10.
Our flight plan has as departure airport the city of Colón and as arrival the Rio Hato airport. Upon departure we will do a 7nm DME arc procedure during climb prior to heading to the coast. The plan was filed as YFR, that is starting IFR at Colón with a cruise altitude of 4,000 feet (westward) and then at DAMAX we change to VFR rules at 2,500 feet. I will be using FSX as usual and remember, whatever is described here is not meant for real life navigation!

The Aircraft
PA34-VPA-LEG10-2013-jul-12-001As I have done in most of this tour, I will be “flying” the very nice Piper Seneca II (PA34-200T). It is an excellent product by Carenado I will review on this blog later on.
We will be cruising at about 120 knots at 4,000 feet with this beautiful twin propeller aircraft. The flight plan estimates a fuel usage of about 12 gallons but I will load it with 50 gallons.
Yet again this flight has been tailored to practice some IFR procedures, while the a/c has a Garmin GPS I will be “flying” it by instruments.

Departure – Colon airport
We will depart from the Enrique Jimenez airport (ICAO: MPEJ) in the city of Colón, province of Colón - Panama Vibes in Panama. The scenery is an alpha version of Lord of Wings Flight Simulation’s MPEJ crudely based on the original airport. In real life it is being fully renovated with a new terminal building and runway suitable for a 767 aircraft.

After going through all the Piper Seneca pre-take off checklists we taxied to runway 36 with lateral winds. Take off took place at around 12:24 local time (UTC-5).

From the picture on the left you can see the Seneca II climbing while beginning to intercept France Field (FNC 109.00 MHz) outbound R-126 for 7 nm. After take off checklist was completed and began adjusting the aircraft for cruise, this required tuning the mixture and setting the propeller RPM according to the checklist.

NAV1 tuned to FNC active and TBG (110.00 MHz) standby, NAV2 with TBG active. The heading bug was set to runway heading (360 degrees) and OBS1 to 126 degrees so that we could easily start intercepting R-126.

The screenshot on the right shows the aircraft as I was doing the 7 nm DME arc around the FNC VOR/DME. The arc started at outbound R-126 and ended at R-191. For this I monitored the DME to maintain the 7 nm as much as my dexterities allowed and periodically adjusted the OBS1 at intervals of 10 degrees starting at 126 in order to do the DME arc. At the end of the arc we would be again above the Gatun lake.

Now as we completed the DME arc at 12:50 we have our instruments set to start heading out on FNC R-191 towards MULPO intersection. MULPO is 15.7 nm outbound FNC.

Have got to love this Piper Seneca for IFR, it’s just a pity the large engine cowls obstruct much of the side views.
Reached MULPO at 12:56 local time. In this leg I set OBS2 to Taboga R-259 since I had tuned TBG VOR/DME on NAV2.

Well our next leg on the same course is NEMER intersection 27nm outbound FNC R-191 but it is also intersected by TBG T-259. That means that when I saw the CDI of VOR2 aligning, I was reaching NEMER. I should have been some 32nm from Taboga but I was slightly off course to the west.

Skies are clear and there is no turbulence, what a beautiful day though for simulation purposes a bit of thunderstorms would have been nice. Now we are heading 153 without any VOR to help us to/from. The only help here is that I had the ADF tuned to TBG (311.00 KHz).

Well actually we were now heading towards DAMAX intersection above the Chame gulf near Punta Chame. In preparation for the turn I set OBS1 to 236 degrees as NAV1 was already with TBG active.

PA34-VPA-LEG10-2013-jul-12-008And the moment came, at 13:14 reached DAMAX intersection which is 15 nm outbound TBG, it marks the beginning of Victor airway V19 (FSX). At this point I turned right heading 236 (already in OBS1) and descended to 2,500 feet because my flight plan was filed as switching to VFR at this waypoint. [Editor's Note] It is actually recommended (see comments) to climb to at least 4,500 feet due to the proximity of two high hills/mountains. FSX default mesh is very poor at depicting Panama's elevation profile and even though I use an improved mesh (freeware), it seems to lack some. The actual leg from DAMAX flies above Chame Hill which Google Earth reports with around 1,600 feet.

PA34-VPA-LEG10-2013-jul-12-009A few miles past DAMAX we overflew the Chame airport, this time with an update from Lord of Wings Flight Simulation as well.
Chame airport is located in the province of Panama - Panama Vibes, the 2nd province we overfly in this flight. The stock airport in FSX is very disappointing, this update makes it a bit more like the real thing but not quite because the Panamanian police does not allow to take pictures of the airport buildings even though the law says that such prohibitions should not take place unless there is a law that says that, but well, that is Panama.

After DAMAX we continue tracking TBG outbound R-237 towards UKATI intersection, again we reach UKATI by tracking the TBG radial and monitoring the DME.
Also remember, UKATI intersection is just off the side of the Rio Hato airport, our destination.

All right then! the weather is good and visibility is excellent. There are no navigation aids at Rio Hato (MPRH) in the province of Cocle - Panama Vibes, Panama. We overflew the airport in a crosswind leg and the screenshot shows the Piper on the downwind leg with the Rio Hato airport. Yet again a better rendition in Panama Lite X based on the airport’s glory times by Lord of Wings Flight Simulation. Here you can also appreciate the rocky island just off Rio Hato which serves as a good reference point for our visual approach.

Currently this airport is also undergoing a complete renovation. It will finally have a passenger terminal building, a runway as long as the original for international flights and the Panamerican Highway will go underneath in a tunnel rather than crossing the runway right through its midpoint. It is not known (everything is secret in Panama) whether there will be navigation aids added to this airport.
PA34-VPA-LEG10-2013-jul-12-017After the downwind leg I set the heading bug to 90 degrees for the base leg and turned in that direction keeping an eye on the altitude and the visual references. The approach checklist was completed and as I turned into the final leg the aircraft was in landing configuration.

The virtual aircraft was landed safely on Rio Hato’s runway 36 and proceeded to the apron and then close the flight plan. This was flown online on the IVAO network but unfortunately (and almost as usual) there was no live virtual ATC coverage anywhere in this airspace. I guess next time I will just use the FSX crippled ATC.
After the a/c was on blocks the shutdown checklist was completed, the Carenado checklists have a few omissions. The a/c was again in its cold & dark configuration ready for the next flight. We used up 11 gallons of fuel against the estimated 12 gallons.

You can also watch the video of the approach to Rio Hato (base leg onwards) on You Tube.

If you are a flight simulation enthusiast using FS9, FSX, Flight Gear or X-Plane and you like to “fly” in Panamanian virtual airspace, we invite you to join our (closed) group on Facebook called “Aviacion Virtual en Panama”. But do remember that conversations are on topic only! Add-on scenery (in progress) by Lord of Wings Flight Simulation’s Panama Lite X.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Air Rally: Bocas del Toro to Colon on Piper Seneca II

Woohoo!!! had a little free time to do another virtual flight. This time the next leg (#9) of the Panama Air Rally 2013 as I promised. Naturally I will use FSX, still wonder why there are people still sticking to FS9 as if it was the last thing on earth! they don’t know what they are missing!

VPA-PanamaRally_Leg9-MPBO_MPEJ-FlightPlanYet again we will board our beloved twin motor Piper Seneca II (Carenado) loaded with 50 gallons of fuel of which according to the FSX flight plan we are expected to use 24.2 gallons.

The realtime weather wasn’t very challenging (clear skies) so I opted to use Heavy Thunderstorms instead. To make it more interesting the departure was 05:35 local time (UTC-5) from Bocas del Toro (MPBO) which is pretty dark. It is important to watch the instruments to fly the departure and not lose orientation, don’t want to ditch into the water.

I filed a YFR flight plan (starts IFR, terminates VFR) though the idea is to rely on instruments. Cruise altitude was 5,000 feet and the destination would be the Enrique Jimenez international airport in Colon city, Panama.

Charts! we have got to have charts. Got them for both Bocas del Toro and Enrique Jimenez. Unfortunately one dates back to 1998 and the other 2006 but anyway this is only simulation. I would prefer to have current charts but sadly –and unlike the civil aviation authorities of other countries- the Panamanian Civil Aviation Authority does not make these publicly available (shame!) so you have to buy them even if you are just a flight simmer! I am used to having current charts but what can I say, it is the third world!.


We will depart from the Bocas del Toro Intl. airport (ICAO: MPBO) in Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro Panama. The airport scenery is that made by Rhett Browning (wherever you are man, you dropped off the face of earth) for FSX back in 2008. One problem though… back then the airport did not have airport lights,! Since a couple of years ago the real airport does have runway edge lights. Luckily I am a relatively experienced FSX scenery designer so I amended the scenery (found here at the “Aviacion Virtual en Panama” Facebook group) to include runway edge lights. I also attempted to add lights to the terminal building but that didn’t work.

If you would like to know something about the beautiful and lively Bocas del Toro visit the Bocas page at Panama Vibes.

Motors started! all systems checked. METAR indicated winds 327 degrees at 18-28 knots, woohoo! this calls for taking off from runway 26. Cross wind component is 15-25 knots. Looked at my charts and I will be doing the GEMER ONE departure. Please keep in mind this chart dates back to 1998 so not to be used for real aviation (I am not a pilot either!) you have been warned.

Radios… NAV1 set to BDT active (114.90) and FNC standby (109.00), NAV2 set active to FNC. OBS1 to 272 degrees and heading bug to 115 degrees.


Took off from runway 26 following heading 272 at 05:40 local time with 50 gals. Gears up, trimmed aircraft for a steady climb. The Piper can climb at a maximum of 1400 ft/sec but I trimmed lower. Upon reaching 1280 feet over the water I initiated a standard turn to intercept BDT R-115. Now inbound to Bocas del Toro VOR/DME to be crossed at or above 3,000 feet. As you can see in the screenshot it is pretty dark out there (and peaceful), I didn’t have coffee though to accompany the virtual experience.

As I saw the VOR indicator switch from TO to FROM I turned to follow BDT outbound R-102 which was now on my OBS1. Now we continue on this radial straight to GEMER intersection 25.3nm east of BDT. In the meantime I enjoyed the beautiful views of the faint lights in the horizon while surrounded by darkness while settling comfortably at 5,000 feet, altitude hold engaged, cowl flaps are closed, mixture leaned properly for this altitude and throttle set for 2,500 RPM.


PA34-VPA-LEG9-2013-may-24-007Continuing on airway G440 I passed GEMER intersection and then (see photo) 18nm further the “Escudo de Veraguas” Island was on my right at 06:10 local time with the beautiful caribbean coast of Panama at the distance. This part mostly inhabitated. On this 48.3 nm leg to PUDOS intersection on the same airway.

PA34-VPA-LEG9-2013-may-24-006Sad news is I confirmed –given I regularly do IFR procedures on this simulated aircraft- that the Carenado Piper Seneca II has some VOR alignment issues but given the age of the product I doubt they will fix it (Note: The developers of the Aerosoft Twin Otter did resolve this issue when I ran into the same problem with their a/c- I normally not use the GPS anymore unless lost but  I use it to check the simulated a/c. As you can see in this screenshot, I was flying right on the radial (outbound BDT) and yet you can see the CDI shows as if I was some 5nm off course (south of the radial).

Passed PUDOS and took a shorter route now, rather than following to KIKES on G440 which would take us farther, I turned left heading 091 direct to MULPO intersection (no airway). This leg was 68 nm and no radial to follow, hum, tough… So how on earth do I know when I reach MULPO?

Remember I set NAV2 active frequency to FNC (France Field VOR/DME)? in addition to that en route I set the OBS2 to 014 degrees. MULPO happens to be an intersection in airway V3 that goes straight to FNC, the Enrique Jimenez airport’s VOR/DME. and MULPO is some 15 nm from FNC. So by having 014 (our initial inbound course to MPEJ) and NAV2 the CDI of VOR2 would indicate when –while on the leg from PUDOS to MULPO- I was intersecting the inbound radial. Now luckily winds were not strong.

By the way, at 06:30 local time my route changed from over the water (I can’t swim!) to inland at some 42nm inbound FNC.


Here comes my favourite part of every virtual flight (other than the takeoff) and that is the approach whether it is visual or instrumental. On MULPO our flight plan changed to VFR for the sake of the tour but I prefer the instruments. Reached MULPO at 06:48.

Anyway, we have the whole of Gatun lake underneath us with several islands as visual reference. Also, to our left at the distance we should see (VFR conditions) the Gatun Locks of the Panama Canal and the Chagres river mouth on the Atlantic coast.

We are reaching the Enrique Jimenez airport (MPEJ) in the city of Colon, province of the same name in Panama. Its terminal VOR/DME is France Field (FNC 109.00). In real life this airport is being totally refurbished to make it suitable for international flights, in particular to be able to receive aircraft as big as the Boeing 757-200. It will have a runway 2,700 meters long with a new terminal building. Of course, the FSX scenery doesn’t reflect that and unfortunately information is hard to get in Panama. If you want to learn more about Colon visit Panama Vibes.

PA34-VPA-LEG9-2013-may-24-011At about 27nm from FNC I initiated descent to 3500 feet, lowered RPM to 2400. At MULPO turn left heading 018 towards GATUN fix, 12 nm to go. Continued to GATUN fix which I had to reach at about 2100 feet. The screenshot on your left shows the moment the Piper was at MULPOS turning towards GATUN fix with Gatun lake all around us, the Piper is not very suitable for watching out the window.

At GATUN I had to adjust my OBS again to the actual runway heading. My virtual flight was terminating at MPEJ runway 36.


PA34-VPA-LEG9-2013-may-24-012Yeah! arrival, things are getting a bit stressy but I have no plans on failing this approach. Having passed GATUN fix then came MELIA the last fix at 1200 feet, in real life we should be able to see the Melia Rainforest Resort, would be nice to have in FSX.Maybe I should add a stock resort for the sake of visual references.

As you can see on the screenshot I had runway 36 in sight. The FNC VOR/DME is not aligned to the runway so we should do the approach taking that into consideration but at this moment it is a visual approach. This stock FSX airport does not have runway lights but I don’t need them now.

Finally landed safely at 06:50 with my lovely Piper Seneca II from Carenado, I was pretty much satisfied with the virtual flight. The tank had 32 gallons of fuel left, meaning I consumed 18 gallons instead of the estimated24.2! yeah! fuel economy, I am getting better at that.

Flew 161 nm from Bocas del Toro to Colon in this beautiful virtual bimotor plane, saved some fuel that I can use for next leg and filed my PIREP with Virtual Pilots. A total of 1:30 hours of flight, part of which under instrument conditions (total darkness), the kind of virtual flight I like. I love night approaches too, but not many airfields in Panama have night lights, even less in the FSX simulator.


For one thing I will continue flying my Carenado Piper Seneca II, if not then my Aerosoft Twin Otter. The Twotter is more suitable for visual approaches.

The stock MPEJ airport while okay is definitely not up to standards and certainly not up to date. As soon as I landed I took it upon myself to do some quick scenery to improve this issue. Will try to create it based on the little information that can be obtained about the new airport. At least the new runway length, add the runway lights, improve on the surrounding landclass, and why not add the Melia resort “look alike” to use a visual reference? When done I will post it at our “Aviacion Virtual en Panama” Facebook group.

So my dear readers, whether you are a lucky real life pilot or an enthusiastic (like me) flight simulation (and aviation) fanatic like me, keep flying, keep learning and keep sharing! If you are interested in the happenings of virtual aviation within the confines of Panamanian (virtual) airspace, visit our Facebook group. And I also encourage you to visit main site or the Panama Vibes articles section to learn more about our tropical country.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Panama Air Rally: Leg 8 David to Bocas del Toro

PA34-VPA-LEG8-FlightPlanWow, it has been nearly a month since my last virtual flight which happened to be Leg #7 of the Virtual Pilots Association Panama Air Rally 2013. We will be loading realtime dynamic weather to fly online using FSX.

Our Flight plan will be YFR, starting with IFR from Enrique Malek in David, Chiriqui terminating with VFR in Bocas del Toro. Will be using our IFR equipped Piper Seneca II. I used the excellent Plan-G flight planner. Remember this is not to be used for real aviation!.

Departure from David
PA34-VPA-LEG8-2013-may-19-002We are on our beloved Piper Seneca II (Carenado) with Lord of Wings livery. The aircraft is at the ramp where I had already performed the checks on the control surfaces.
It is rainy on the Enrique Malek airport (MPDA / DAV) currently winds are 210 degrees at 10 knots so I will be departing from runway 22.

Prior to departure I tuned NAV1 to DAV VOR/DME (114.30 MHz) in the active frequency and BDT (114.9 MHz) on standby. OBS1 set to 030 our outbound radial.

Tune NAV2 to BDT (Bocas del Toro) VOR/DME with OBS2 to 352 degrees, our inbound radial to Bocas del Toro from OSITO to URUGA (still v15 but different direction) just prior to the DME arc.

The ADF to the DAV NDB (350.0 kHz). Departure time 17:40 local time (22:40 UTC) and we are scheduled to arrive shortly before sunset.

PA34-VPA-LEG8-2013-may-19-003Taxied via the parallel taxiway to the head of runway 22 until cleared for immediate takeoff. Climbed runway heading, passed 1,000 feet, gear up and initiated a sharp turn to intercept the David (DAV) VOR/DME we had just left behind. The plan calls for intercepting DAV outbound R-030 to our first intersection, EGULA and continue climbing to 11,000 feet. Not only was it rainy but there were also distant thunders and a lot of turbulence. Very quickly during climb the aircraft found itself surrounded by clouds above and below. It is nice to see turbulence in FSX with a good a/c, in fact this was perhaps the first time I actually experienced weather in this area that closely resembles what is present in real life.

During climb it was necessary to periodically adjust the engine fuel mixture until I settled at 11,000 feet. We are flying east under IFR rules. We need this altitude to safely clear the mountain range that divides the Pacific and Atlantic sides of Panama.

On our departure we flew from DAV to EGULA on R-030 (outbound) via Victor Airway 15 following to ETATI. There is a more straighforward route on Victor Airway 17 following ASEGO and ATOBA but that would require clearing much higher mountains in the vicinity of the Barú Volcano which is usually very cloudy, therefore my choice for V15.

PA34-VPA-LEG8-2013-may-19-005Passed ETATI at some 20.6nm outbound DAV, fly over La Estrella dam/lake and we need at least some 7 nm (passed ETATI) more to clear the highest part of the mountain range. We would then pass the western end of the Fortuna lake and continue flying DAV R-029 to OSITO some 13.2nm from ETATI so we must keep an eye on our DME.

Okay, at OSITO we must make a left turn towards URUGA on the Atlantic coast. There are two ways to know when we reached OSITO (remember, we are still on IFR), do you know which? Well, for one thing OSITO is some 33.8 nm outbound DAV. The other is with our VOR2 instrument, do you remember we tuned NAV2 to BDT (our inbound VOR/DME)? OSITO is about 18.2 nm southeast of BDT and remember we set OBS2 to R-352? well, when we see that the CDI of VOR2 aligning it means we are approaching the inbound radial that would take us to URUGA intersection.

At this point both our NAV radios are set to BDT so it doesn’t matter whether our DME is tuned to NAV1 or NAV2. We continue from OSITO to URUGA intersection just at the coast of the Gulf of Bocas del Toro.

PA34-VPA-LEG8-2013-may-19-009Some point (around 6nm) after OSITO we can safely initiate our descent. We must reach URUGA intersection at or above 6,000 ft.

The picture on the right shows our cockpit when we are at our IAF URUGA. URUGA is 10nm from BDT and is the point where we turn right to start doing our 10nm DME arc on the Bocas del Toro (BDT) VOR/DME. At this point we switch our flight plan to VFR (Visual Flight Rules) but I will be using the instruments for guidance as well (it’s nice).

Well as you can see the Piper Seneca is very nice for IFR but unfortunately (at least for flight simulation) it is not too suitable for Visual Flights. With its large engine cowls it is very difficult to appreciate anything via the side windows.

PA34-VPA-LEG8-2013-may-19-010Now we are tracking our DME arc, you know the drill, we use VOR1 and periodically adjust OBS1 to a new radial until we arrive to our inbound radial for the final approach.

The picture on the left shows our beautiful aircraft above Loma Partida on the mainland near URUGA. For visual references we go almost through the middle of the peninsula of Loma Partida towards the north northeast edge of the adjacent Popa Island.

Then we continue the DME arc towards the eastern point of Bastimentos Island and contine the DME arc until we are 10 nm out and intercept BDT inbound R-262 which is our initial fix. We must be here at around 1,600 feet and turn left straight to runway 26 more or less flying along part of the shores of Bastimentos. At 5 DME we must be at 1,400 feet.
Unfortunately nearly on finals I missed alignment (BTW remember the VOR is not aligned to the runway!) and I had to put the gear up, apply full throttle and climb I declared a missed approach. Sadly I didn’t have my chart at hand so I did not do (shame on me) the proper missed approach procedure. However I will describe it here.

For the missed approach climb heading 271 until 8 nm outbound BDT. For visual reference this point is right at the mainland coast opposite to the runway end. At that point you do a sharp turn right to intercept BDT inbound R-104, overfly BDT and at DME 10nm we do our approach to runway 26 again.

Arrival to Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro
PA34-VPA-LEG8-2013-may-19-013I did my second attempt with waning daylight thus making it more challenging after my sad mistake.
I was using the excellent FSX Bocas del Toro airport scenery by Rhett Browning. Unfortunately this scenery is already old meaning it does not have runway lights for night approaches. The real Bocas del Toro (MPBO / BOC) airport does have runway lights so we must soon do an refresh update to the runway.

On my 2nd attempt I managed to land and taxi to the terminal just in time for sunset.

This virtual flight was flown online but during the whole flight there were no nearby aircrafts and no ATC coverage. Sadly the only airport in Panama that seems to get ATC coverage online is Tocumen (MPTO). Even more unfortunate is that my fellow Panamanians have not made it any easier to organize ourselves to have a more interesting virtual airspace.

My next flight will be the next leg of the tour, from Bocas del Toro to the Enrique Jimenez airport in Colon city, Panama. Until then have safe virtual flights and remember to follow me on Twitter (@aviationweb), the Panamanian scenery development for FSX on the Lord of Wings Flight Simulation Facebook page and of course this blog of Virtual Aviation.

Last but not least if you would like to know a bit more about Panama, our little Central American country then make sure to visit Panama Vibes or the Panama Vibes Articles section.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Panama Air Rally leg #4: Albrook to Pedasí

It is time for another exciting VFR trip with IFR practice in the virtual airspace of the Republic of Panama! As usual we will be using the Microsoft Flight Simulator X. This article describes the 4th leg of the Panama Air Rally of the Virtual Pilots Association.

Flight Brief

Our flight will be a total of 116nm departing from Marcos A. Gelabert (MPMG/PAC) in Albrook, Panama city, Panama to the old Pedasí airport (MP00 in FSX) in Los Santos, Panama. We will cruise at 6,500 feet. We loaded 60 gallons of fuel but expect to spend 18 gallons.

We will be using our trusted Piper Seneca II (Carenado) with custom livery. Here in this photo we the airport terminal and the Panama Ports’s cranes in the background.

PA34-MPMG-MP00-2013-feb-23-007Now we are at the holding point of runway 18 at MPMG and awaiting permission to enter the runway. We are setup for departure with VOR 1 tuned to the Taboga VOR/DME (TBG 110.00), the ADF to the Taboga NDB (311.00), OBS 1 to 183 and the heading bug to 235 the course of the next leg. Here with the Panamanian flag waving proudly at the top of Ancon Hill with Albrook Mall in the background. Albrook airport and Panama city scenery courtesy of Victor Brumley.

PA34-MPMG-MP00-2013-feb-23-009We are airborne, winds 330 degrees 09 knots. As we climb keeping runway heading we see the Panama Canal Administration building on our left at the base of Ancon Hill.

We continue climbing past the hill on our right next to Panama Ports. Flaps up, Cowl flaps open.

PA34-MPMG-MP00-2013-feb-23-010OK, we have cleared the hills and we turn left R-183 inbound Taboga (TBG). Still enjoying the scenery of the beautiful but chaotic city with the Bridge of the Americans and the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal in the background.

We continue climbing and we should soon be crossing the Taboga VOR (11nm) atop the island of the same name.

En Route
PA34-MPMG-MP00-2013-feb-23-012We have crossed Taboga VOR/DME (did you see the instrument?) and we turned right tracking Taboga outbound R-235. This leg will be 15.1nm to the DAMAX intersection.

In the meantime here in the vicinity of Taboga we can see the Howard airport (MPHO) nowadays renamed Panama Pacífico (MPPA). We still keep the ADF and VOR 1 on TBG VOR/DME.

PA34-MPMG-MP00-2013-feb-23-013Now we are approaching DAMAX intersection which should be near the base -but over water- of that tip of land called Punta Chame. At that tip there used to be a short dirt landing strip which is closed nowadays.

PA34-MPMG-MP00-2013-feb-23-015We passed DAMAX at 6,500 feet and went over the Chame mountain and here we see the Chame airstrip (MP24) below the starboard engine. Here a somewhat enhanced version based on real life from the Panama Lite X preview.

On this leg we keep cruising outbound TBG R-237 for 25.7nm towards UKATI intersection.

PA34-MPMG-MP00-2013-feb-23-017At this point we are right at UKATI intersection with the Rio Hato airport (MPRH) in sight. Here showing the Panama Lite X version of the airport.

This airport has always had the Panamerican highway cutting it in half (no tunnel!). Nowadays it is being totally renovated with a tunnel, new runway and a passenger terminal to become the newest international airport in Panama. Past UKATI we turn left heading 218 for 29.7nm. Time to tune the Chitre NDB (CHE 440.00) on the ADF.  To help us finding the CHE NDB on the Chitre airfield (MPCE) we tune VOR 2 to the Santiago VOR DME (STG 114.50) and OBS 2 to R-104, the CDI should also center above Chitre if we use TBG R-229.

PA34-MPMG-MP00-2013-feb-23-019This is perhaps the longest leg of the trip, we are now flying above the Gulf of Parita with the town of Pocrí and Aguadulce on the far right.

Since we departed late in the afternoon we can observe that the sun is beginning to hide on the horizon. This trip should take us between 50 –60 minutes, enough to arrive with daylight.

PA34-MPMG-MP00-2013-feb-23-022Okay we went straight to the CHE NDB  and saw both CDI needles center as we approached Chitre airport shown on this picture at 5 o’clock.

Here we are depicting Panama Lite X’s version of Chitre airfield which updates the default FSX airport to current day state.

PA34-MPMG-MP00-2013-feb-23-023We passed Chitre at 3,500 feet and turned left heading 137 degrees (use the heading bug) with CHE NDB directly behind us.

This is actually the longest and final leg of the trip with 34.4nm. We should pass several major rivers. Here one of them with the Guararé airfield in sight (Panama Lite X version). In older Microsoft simulators it was MPNU but in FSX it has a different code. This Panama Lite X version updates the Guararé airfield complete with terminal building and surrounding areas.

PA34-MPMG-MP00-2013-feb-23-024Further along this last leg we see the mouth of Mensabe river with the La Candelaria dirt airstrip following it prior to the mouth of the Pocri river. All VFR reference points added by Panama Lite X.

La Candelaria airstrip is not found in the default simulator. About a year ago the airstrip was closed but as it goes with airfields in Panama, it may be opened (and closed) as time passes.

PA34-MPMG-MP00-2013-feb-23-025After we passed Mensabe river, La Candelaria and Pocri river we find ourselves in the vicinity of Pedasi, but first we have to also pass the mouth of the Purio river.

We continue descending, here with the old Pedasi runway in sight at 1,200 feet. Again, this is Panama Lite X depiction of the Pedasi airport. A new airfield with a longer airstrip has been built 1.8nm south west of the old airport because the land had been bought by a foreign real estate developer and because winds were a bit too strong in the area.

PA34-MPMG-MP00-2013-feb-23-027Finally we arrived safely to Pedasí (MP00) just before the sun went over the horizon as there are no airport lights.

We used 13 gallons of fuel against the expected 18 gallons with a cruise fuel flow of 6.9 gal/hr. Our Carenado Piper Seneca II proved again to be a wonderful aircraft for practicing IFR navigation. I suppose you have noticed how I hinted the settings of the navigation instruments for a reason but in any case it is left for the reader to grab an interactive chart and verify the information.

Article-PiperSenecaII-MPMG-MP00-FlightPlanLast, remember that this is NOT for real life navigation. I hope you enjoyed our long trip over the Panamanian skies. If you are interested in Panamanian virtual aviation or being up to date in the happenings of the virtual skies of Panama (flight simulation) visit our Facebook group “Aviacion Virtual en Panama” were you can find freeware scenery and references to payware scenery, anything related exclusively to our virtual skies. May the ILS be with you!.